SPORTS

Canadian women setting sights on podium finish after loss, says coach Herdman

08/07/2012 08:22 EDT | Updated 10/07/2012 05:12 EDT
Canadian women's soccer coach John Herdman says his players have to pick themselves up following their crushing Olympic semifinal loss to the United States.

"These next days are going to be crucial," Herdman said on a conference call Tuesday. "We can just minimize distractions and be ready to get absolutely clear about achieving the task and making the country proud by seeing that flag rise."

But the distractions continued ahead of Thursday's bronze-medal game with France as FIFA announced it is investigating comments made after Monday's dramatic 4-3 lost to the Americans.

Canadian players, including captain Christine Sinclair, were critical of Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen's decisions.

Sinclair, who scored all three of Canada's goals, said moments after the final whistle that "the ref decided the result before the game started."

A spokesman for the Canadian Soccer Association said the team will not comment on the investigation until FIFA makes a decision.

Herdman, meanwhile, is focusing on getting the team ready for France.

"I'm trying not to give it any power or attention at this point until it becomes something that affects the team, as in selections and tactical planning," said Herdman.

The coach added he does not plan to talk to Sinclair about her comments.

"We've just gotta make sure she can do her job," he said. "She's been pretty removed from this now."

With Canada up 3-2 against the favoured Americans, Pedersen awarded an indirect free kick to the U.S. inside the 18-yard box after Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod was penalized for holding on to the ball too long.

The indirect kick resulted in Canada being called for a hand-ball infraction in the box, and U.S. star Abby Wambach scored to tie the score 3-3 with 10 minutes to go in regulation time.

Alex Morgan then won the game for the U.S. on a header in the last minute of extra time.

Herdman wouldn't criticize Wambach for lobbying the official.

"She knows how to win football matches," said Herdman. "At the end of the day, this is why teams go on and win. They find ways to win. If Abby's done that, then good on her. She's found a way to find a loophole in the system that might punish a team."

But Herdman will not advise his players to take similar actions against France.

"I just think our players can learn (from Wambach)," he said with a chuckle. "The challenge is, we've got enough to think about in the game, about just being on the right blade of grass and doing things right and working hard for each other.

"I certainly won't be asking my players to go and do that. I think they'll just go and play football as long as the referees officiate games, which is their job to do."

Monday's semifinal drew considerable discussion on Twitter and in traditional media.

Despite the loss, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sinclair and company gave Canadians a reason to be proud.

"I understand the extreme disappointment of the Canadian women's soccer team," said Harper in Vancouver. "They've had a great run. They're a great team. They really have, to this point, been tremendous representatives of the country."

The French beat Canada at the 2011 World Cup, and Canada's 0-3 record at the tournament led to Herdman's appointment as coach in place of the departed Carolina Morace.

But Herdman said his squad is not looking for redemption as it attempts to get on the podium.

"I think we've moved on," he said. "The only motivation now is to do what we came her for, which is to see the flag rise and be proud when that national anthem's (sung) and make history."

Note: Herdman said his players did not sustain any serious injuries against the U.S. Although midfielder Desiree Scott took a knock on her knee late in the game, Herdman said she should be able to play against France.

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